Agile

Agile? Nice and orderly, please!

From Lenin comes the statement, which unfortunately cannot be denied entirely: “Revolution in Germany? It’s never going to happen. If those Germans want to storm a station, they’ll still buy a platform ticket!” We Germans are known and appreciated for such virtues as diligence, conscientiousness, and sense of order. Even though we sometimes overdo it, complain about over-regulation and incapacitation and then demand a reduction in bureaucracy, our relationship with creative diversity is somewhat strained. We prefer it neat and orderly. Without having checked it scientifically, I would assume that most of the lawn edges are sold and laid in Germany. Everything has to be in its proper order. Even our striving for agility, which then, of course, falls into the category “You can’t have your cake and eat it!”

Organizational agility means adaptability and responsiveness. A central principle is customer orientation through decentralization. Teams work as close to the customer as possible and generate value as autonomously as possible. The teams of the nursing organization Buurtzorg or the mini-factories at FAVI are good examples of this. However, this autonomy – and with it, the agility – can only succeed if these teams are given sufficient freedom. And that implies a considerable difference in the way the teams work. This is no mistake and does not have to be organized.

Any fool can make a rule. And any fool will mind it.
Henry David Thoreau

Between theoretical knowledge and practical implementation, there are worlds in our companies, in which often instructions exist for the correct use of the handrail on the stairs. As soon as the first teams start working in an agile way and, from retrospective to retrospective, improve their methods and tools more and more, the cry for order starts to grow. Then templates for user stories are defined, the Definition of Done is standardized and JIRA with uniform workflows is introduced mandatory for all, just to name a few examples. As soon as several teams work on more or less connected products, one yearns for synchronism and conformity. Then Scrum becomes obligatory for everyone and the sprint cycle is synchronized: Monday 9-10 am: Sprint Planning for all teams and Daily Meeting all teams every day at 11:30 am.

People do neither need a completely over-regulated everyday life nor sham principles.
Lars Vollmer

In the transition to more agility, the balance between autonomy and individuality on the one hand and obedience and conformity, on the other hand, is being renegotiated. Many, like Lars Vollmer, rightly deplore the over-regulation of our everyday working life and, like Reinhard K. Sprenger, the widespread and incapacitating practices in our organizations. The agile transformation must necessarily lead to deregulation, de-bureaucratization, and greater individuality. Of course, agile organizations also need and also have a regulatory framework. But first and foremost it consists of strong common principles and the agile manifesto offers a good starting point. Within this framework, the open exchange of experience between the teams will gradually lead to a common set of meaningful rules for cooperation. Gradually and steadily evolving, mind you, as a result of the joint effort to work together in the best possible way.

Adult people organize families, build homes, take responsibility in associations, make sensible and forward-looking decisions. But the moment they step through the gates of the company, they are infantilized and incapacitated, such that I sometimes feel stunned. It is being tried to educate them, for example by means of encroaching measures to promote health, by creating a sense of purpose, by means of identification-mutterings, feel-good odds and ends and leadership-pedagogy. And then this incapacitation is labeled as care.
Reinhard K. Sprenger in Impulse (German)

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.

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